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Derrick Pounder

Derrick PounderProfessor of Forensic Medicine, University of Dundee

Interview location: Dundee University
Interview date
: 7th December 2002

Key Themes: Autopsy, International Perspective, Motivation



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We're in the business of investigating the dead in order to assist the living – there's no other reason for doing it
For Derrick Pounder, the public service aspect of his work as a forensic pathologist is paramount.  He was a founder member of Physicians for Human Rights in the UK, and has worked in many international investigations in, for example, Kosovo, Bosnia, the Middle East and South Africa.  But the importance of serving the community informs his work in every arena, whether it be explaining postmortem results to a bereaved family, or providing evidence which might bring about changes to prevent future deaths.

Despite the strength of his beliefs he is clear that his role is to be the objective scientist:  “Advocates have to inject a bit of passion into what they do  ... As a scientist you have to leave out a lot of that passion in order to ensure that ... your conclusion [is] not clouded by emotion.”

He explores this issue of professional detachment and the importance of balancing it with compassion.  In particular his work with genocide investigations and victim identification on a massive scale has brought not only scientific challenges but also emotional ones.  “My most vivid memories of these events are always to do with the living, not to do with the dead.”


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